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USC vs Washington State preview

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Friday Night Lights at the Coliseum! USC will look to shake off their two game losing streak against Washington State

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Last week USC was embarrassed on the road and on primetime television against the Texas Longhorns. The team gave up 34 unanswered points after holding a 14-3 lead early in the game. With a 1-2 record, USC returns back to the Los Angeles Coliseum for a Friday night meeting against the Washington State Cougars. Last season the Cougars defeated the Trojans in Pullman on Friday night. USC can turn it around moving starting this Friday night, but the main question remains. Can they make the proper adjustments to get things going?

NCAA Football: Southern California at Texas Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Offense

The USC offense has been in a very weird state the last two weeks. Against Stanford the Trojans failed to generate more than 3 points all game in a 17-3 loss and last week against Texas they had a promising start moving the ball and reaching the end zone twice, however a failed 4th and goal at the 2 was the beginning of the end for the USC offense. The offense reached an historic low on the ground. Rushing for -5 yards against Texas. The USC offensive line had a horrible day generating any push for the running backs and allowing 3 sacks. All night the Trojans running backs were swallowed up in the backfield and the offensive line was just getting beat and out muscled by the Texas front seven.

The lack of a run game forced the Trojans to throw more than we’ve seen. Freshman quarterback JT Daniels wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t bad either. Daniels went 30-48 for 322 and a interception. He connected with Amon-Ra St. Brown quite a few times on 3rd down and found reliable targets in redshirt sophomores Velus Jones and Tyler Vaughns, however Daniels threw a couple of passes into double coverage and was off with a few passes due to the pressure.

USC will hope to turn their fortunes around against a Washington State defense that has given up an average of 501 yards again so far. Keep in mind Washington State has only faced Wyoming, San Jose State, and FCS Eastern Washington the first three games. This will be the Cougars toughest test with the talent USC has on the offensive side of the ball. Look for the Trojans to get their running game going once again to take pressure off Daniels.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Texas Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Defense

USC looked towards their defense to keep them in the game and for a good portion of the game they did. Missed tackles from the secondary and penalties hurt the Trojans defense and gave Texas new life which turned into points during the second half. Greg Johnson and Isiah Langley were picked on a lot while Ajane Harris missed a tackle which led to a touchdown to start the 34 point run for the Longhorns.

The USC linebackers were mostly silent during the night. Porter Gustin was having himself a night and helping the USC defense generate a pass rush on Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. All of that went away as Gustin was ejected for a targeting penalty committed. The senior linebacker will now miss the first half of Friday night’s game which could be good news for Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II. The Trojans failed to generate pressure on Ehlinger as he managed to rush for a score and continue to have time to rush.

Everyone is very familiar with Cougars head coach Mike Leach style of offense through the years. The air raid, which means the USC secondary will see a good amount of passes come their way. Minshew has thrown for over 1,200 yards in three games and has thrown 8 touchdowns with three interceptions. Again the quality of opponents Washington State has faced the last three games play a decent factor in those numbers, but the Trojans defense know what happened to them last season in Pullman. Clancy Pendergast will likely dial up some blitz packages to pressure Minshew while Gustin sits out the first half. Meanwhile the USC secondary can afford to miss tackles that lead to big plays like they allowed vs Texas. They also have to get the Cougars off the field on third down. USC allowed Texas to go 10-19 on third down.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Key Notes

  • USC comes into the game with a 16 game winning streak at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Their last loss came to Washington back in 2015.
  • USC is currently a -3.5 favorite over Washington State.
  • Last season Washington State handed USC their only conference loss of the season in Pullman. The game was also on a Friday night.
  • Mike Leach is 2-1 vs USC. In his first game against the Trojans, Washington State defeated USC 10-7 at the Los Angeles Coliseum during the 2013 season.